Green Communities

Promoting and supporting community-based energy projects with a major national programme

Project duration: April 2002 to March 2011

Green Communities was an Energy Saving Trust programme (2002 to 2011) that aimed to help communities deliver effective carbon savings and sustainable energy projects and support them in moving towards a low carbon future.

The programme was originally known as Community Action for Energy (fondly shorted to CAfE), and grew from a concept that was developed by CSE and piloted in spring 2002 by the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes. It quickly blossomed and within a year had grown into a network of over 850 members which included community groups, community activists, local authority officers, schools, energy specialists and many others (for examples of groups that became active members of the network, see below).

It was managed by CSE for the next eight years during which time the network grew to over 6,500 members and the potential of community-based energy projects to contribute to efforts to tackle climate change became fully acknowledged at all levels of government.

In 2010, the Energy Saving Trust took the programme in house. And although funding for Green Communities ceased in 2011, it continues to have a web presence from where you can download materials, watch video case studies and access a communities funding database.

CSE’s role included all of the following activities, most of which were sustained over the eight years that we managed Green Communities / Community Action for Energy (CAfE):

  1. Growing the network until, at over 6,500, it became the UK’s largest community-energy interest group.
  2. Developing and populating a full database of members in the UK to track activity levels and details of the thousands of projects they were involved with.
  3. Delivering training courses (see below).
  4. The full-time staffing of an advice line and email portal to provide support backed by detailed knowledge of community energy issues, funding and technical issues.
  5. Running an annual conference for up to 250 delegates (see below).
  6. Managing a network of energy consultants.
  7. Managing a grants scheme by which funds were disbursed to community groups for training, travel and other forms of support.
  8. Writing and designing printed and on-line communications and publicity materials.

For Janine Michael, CSE’s head of development, our involvement with Green Communities over nearly a decade demonstrates the breadth of expertise that CSE brings to a programme like this, and our ability to sustain and expand interest from community activists in a wide range of local energy issues.

“Green Communities was one of the first practical support networks for local energy projects," she said. "It helped community activists to understand what they could achieve locally in terms of home energy advice, insulation schemes and renewable projects as well as skilling them up to make things happen. CSE’s own PlanLoCaL project is a natural next step in terms of helping communities to plan for a more sustainable energy future.”


Some organisations that were part of the CAfE/GC network

Kingussie Community Development Company  |  Whittington and Fisherwick Environmental Group  |  Sustainable Shelford  |  Dulais Valley Partnership Ovesco  |  Transition Bath


Conferences

To promote the programme and allow network members a valuable opportunity to network and share their experience and expertise, CSE organised annual national CAfE/Green Communities conferences. These quickly became the highlight of the programme’s year and were inevitably fully booked occasions attracting up to 250 delegates from right across the UK. Here’s where we were:

Feb 2003  |  Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre
Feb 2004  |  Manchester's Bridgewater Hall
Feb 2005  |  Resource Centre, Holloway Road, London (speakers included Tony Juniper, then Director of Friends of the Earth)
Mar 2006  |  Thinktank, Birmingham (Dr Brenda Boardman MBE, Head of Lower Carbon Futures at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute)
Nov 2007  |  CastleGate, Newcastle upon Tyne (Mark Lynas, journalist, author and climate activist)
Nov 2008  |  Oxford Town Hall (Radio 4's Liz Barclay, presenter of ‘You and Yours', and the Greening Campaign's Terena Plowright)
Nov 2009  |  Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool (George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network, a climate change communications and training charity)

Our role included organising the venue, keynote speakers, publicity, delegate list and catering. Feedback from the conferences was overwhelmingly positive, year after year.


Training

At its peak Green Communities was offering a range of training courses (see list below and this link) designed to give community groups and others the expertise needed to run successful energy projects. These courses were developed and delivered by CSE dozens of times a year in community centres across the UK.

'Making it happen' was a basic one-day introduction to setting up a community-based sustainable energy project and aimed at both energy professionals and representatives from the community and voluntary sectors. It featured plenty of hands-on exercises and networking activities.

'Finding out about energy' was aimed at community groups and individuals keen to learn about energy efficiency, sustainable energy use and renewable energy technologies.

'Funding' was a course aimed at people working (paid or voluntary) in the community energy sector that aimed to assist in the identification of sources for community funding, as well as the writing and submission of bids.

'Planning for success' was a follow-up to ‘Making it happen' that aimed to give people running on-going community energy projects further support.


Materials

Over the years we produced a range of printed communications materials for CAfE and later Green Communities. These included newsletters (example 1, example 2) and case studies (example 1, example 2, example 3).

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